Friday, 16 July 2010

Slavery Profits & Compensation, Wealth Creation and Land Ownership

Further to my blog posted on 4 July about Legacies of British Slavery in my presentation on the slavery business across South London I reviewed the evidence of the wide range of involvements in the slavery business of the wealthy in various parts of South London. One of the important pieces of analysis I was able to undertake when preparing my talk was into the lists of owners and occupiers in Dorian Gerhold's Villas and Mansions of Roehampton and Putney Heath (Wandsworth Historical Society, 1997) against known involvements in the slavery business from other sources in the decades leading up to emancipation, and the information provided to me by Nick Draper of the Legacies project team on those who were involved in compensation claims. It highlights the importance of studying in detail who the wealthy were both in terms of land and other forms of wealth, because their involvements in the slavery business were often hidden and because profits of slavery contributed to that wealth. Decades of work by W. D. Rubinstein on different aspects of the wealthy have provided useful context. His more recent work on probate records culminating in Who Were the Rich? (Vol 1. 1809-39) is derived from a database of some 12,000 of the richest people dying between 1809 and 1914 with £100,000 personalty. Rubinstein and the team are sharing their data for mutual benefit. This is a very welcome cross academic project development.
While Rubinstein has drawn on John Bateman's The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland in his work, his analysis excludes landed wealth. The team will therefore be working systematically through Bateman to trace the effects of movement of slave-wealth into English land. Bateman based his work on the Parliamentary Returns 1872-3 of Every Owner of Land in England and Wales (Parliamentary Papers 1874. c. 1492), excluding London. He corrected the figures through correspondence with owners. There may also be local and regional studies which will help like R. G. Wilson's Gentlemen Merchants: The Merchant Community in Leeds, 1700-1830 (Manchester 1971). This was cited by Rubinstein in his article New Men of Wealth and the Purchase of Land in Nineteenth Century Britain in Past and Present (No. 92. August 1981), along with The Making of a Ruling Class: Two Centuries of Capital Development on Tyneside. (Newcastle 1978) which he describes as 'impressive'. The question arises as to how many other detailed studies of the wealthy at local and regional level there are. And we must not forget that many landowners owned estates all over the country, so links between regions also have to be looked for. It is to be hoped that those with relevant knowledge will attend the workshop in the region where they are based. The studies in the long awaited publication from the English Heritage and National Trust Conference on Slavery and the English Country House should add to our knowledge. Work may have been carried out in the Victoria County Histories England's Past for All projects which may provide useful information.

There were plenty of ideas at the 3 July workshop on how the Legacies project team could be working. As someone who is bombarding the team members with nuggets of information, ideas and questions, I recognise that the scale of the work accumulating for them could overwhelm them. Pursuing some ideas could divert them from the completion of the core of the project. Others will require a lot of input but are unlikely to maximise benefits. The key is how to maximise publicity and engagement with minimal input. The County summaries of people connected with compensation being prepared for each workshop, could be posted on the project website, along with a list of all the claimants and awardees by address (both County and London if both), along with an explanation that the team would welcome any information from family, local, business, economic, etc, historians about these people. The list would need to include a reference to those who appear in the Dictionary of National Biography. Co-operation with the DNB would enable the Legacies team to check whether any of the individuals it is interested in are being worked on for future inclusion. Another area for potential co-operation is with the Victoria County Histories England Past project team in case their work has generated any material that is relevant to the Legacies project. Another useful tool on the website would be a list of slave plantations by island and parish with a request especially to archivists as to whether they have any records at any period relating to those plantations.

Despite all the work on slavery and abolition in 2007 we are only at the threshold of understanding the real impact of the slavery business on British economic, political, social and cultural development. Earlier in the year one of the Long 18thC Seminars at the Institute of Historical Research had an impromptu discussion on whether 18thC studies were in crisis. I suggested that the new work on slavery emerging from the work around the 2007 commemoration had begun to provide the basis for a re-examination of the 18thC economy, and that the work the English Country House and the Legacies Projects would contribute to a re-evaluation. Nick Draper's book The Price of Slavery of Emancipation (Cambridge University Press. 2010) gives a flavour of the potential impact.

A key element of the Legacies project is the looking forward at what recipients of compensation did with the money; funding colonial development, industrial development, colonial enterprise, building development, and cultural and philantrophic activities. It will hopefully provide a lot more information that will show how British Governments and entrepreneurs underpinned the continuing slave economies in the United States, Cuba and Brazil. Marika Sherwood threw out as a challenge the need to do such research in her polemic After Abolition (I B Tauris, 2007)

James Bogle Smith (1797-1870). who for many years lived on Battersea's Lavender Hill is an example of these people. Nick tells me that he was a partner in the West India merchant firm of Brooke Smith of 1 Sambrook Court, Basinghall Street at the time of compensation in the early 1830s; by the late 1830s he was trading under his own name at 15 Tokenhouse Yard. He appears in the compensation records with Elizabeth Brooke, Henry James Brooke and William Robertson Webb (the first two of whom Nick believes were heirs of Smith's former partner in Brooke Smith and the third a partner in the related firm Brooke Webb) as mortgagees or creditors of the Rabaca [sp?], Dumbarton and Belmont estates on St Vincent (St Vincent Nos. 452, 461, and 597), for all of which they were awarded the compensation. The same group had two other apparently unsuccessful counterclaims on St Vincent (St Vincent Nos. 447 and 573), and two counterclaims in British Guiana against Alexander Cruikshank (also the original claimant on the Belmont estate in St Vincent). In these last two claims (British Guiana 697 & 700), which were large awards (£21,073 11s 9d and £11,566 8s 3d respectively), the compensation was officially awarded to Alexander Cruikshank but there is evidence suggesting that Smith et al. came to an arrangement at least to share the compensation with Cruikshank: they had counterclaimed as holders of a mortgage for £43,006 16s 10d.
Separately, Smith was awarded the compensation for 28 enslaved in Kingstown St Vincent, apparently as a trustee of a marriage settlement for the beneficiaries of compensation. From the late 1830s until the 1860s he was a director of the Union Bank of Australia, a director of the Marine Insurance Co. (1836) and Vice President of the National Life Assurance Co. (1850). He served as Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company in 1835.

Another person who has surfaced involved in Cuban sugar is Julius Caeser Czarnikow (1838-1909) founder of C. Cazarnikow Ltd., a London sugar and colonial brokerage. He purchased Elm Lodge in Mitcham in 1869, having previously lived at Brook House, Clapham Common. Most of his business was with Cuba. Did he start there before emancipation in the island? And how did he get started financially? There are likely to thousands of such people who will surface during the continuing work.
For the maximum benefit to be derived through sharing knowledge and development co-operation, it is to be hoped that the regional workshops will be well attended.

The regional workshop programme dates are set out in the 4 July blog. For further details go to or email the team on

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